English eccentricity

Homes: English eccentricity

English eccentricity

This 1940s house in Hoopeston’s southeast corner had a unique exterior, but for owners Arik and Ashlee Bruens, the focus was just as much on decorating the interior to make it one-of-a-kind.

Story: Christine Walsh

Photos: Rick Danzl

This 1940s house in Hoopeston’s southeast corner had a unique exterior, but for owners Arik and Ashlee Bruens, the focus was just as much on decorating the interior to make it one-of-a-kind.

The home’s outside is an unusual castle style.

The Bruens, both Hoopeston natives, had lived in Bloomington for 10 years before returning to their hometown. They were thrilled to see a “for-sale” sign in the 2,000-square-foot home’s yard.

“I remember this home from when I was a lot younger,” Ashlee, a registered nurse, said. “It was definitely love at first sight. I haven’t seen one that remotely looks like this. It stands out a little bit.”

“Everybody’s always referred to it as the castle house,” Arik, a Vermilion County investigator, said.

Dr. K.H. Hammond, a Hoopeston surgeon, built the house, just down the street from his primary care office. As a tribute to the home’s past, the Bruens hung the sign from Hammond’s practice in their dining room window.

“He seemed to be pretty beloved in the community,” Ashlee said.

The Bruens are the fourth owners. The last owners before the Bruens redid the walls and kitchen.

“The bones were pretty good,” Arik said, noting that everything from the stairs up is original.

The home has all of its original door handles and built-ins.

“We tried to keep as much original stuff as possible,” Arik said.

Ashlee’s father is a carpenter and helped with the updates they did want to make.

One of the oddities they found as they went through the house was that there was a door that led to the roof over the garage.

“It literally was a door leading to nowhere,” Arik said.

So the couple asked Ashlee’s father and brother to build a rooftop deck there.

“We love to host,” Ashlee said. “It’s a nice space to be able to do that here. It’s beautiful at night; you can see all the stars.”

Ashlee calls the deck’s style Italian bistro, with a lot of plants, table runners and pillows.

“It has kind of a romantic feeling at night,” she said.

Ashlee describes their home’s overall style as English eccentric.

“It has flavors of Bohemian,” she said. “Obviously we love color. Our other home was a little more traditional, but this time we really went for it. This is more of our personalities. Even if it’s not your taste, I think you can appreciate it.”

A lot of their friends favor more modern styles, with sleek lines and black and gray palettes.

“We like adding pops of color,” Arik said. “We’re definitely unique to our group of friends.”

The Bruens host a Christmas party every year, and friends always ask that they continue the tradition.

“It’s not something they’re used to,” Arik said of the home’s style.

Ashlee has a graphic design degree from Illinois State University and has a side hobby called PaperDollDesignCo., for which she has a small studio in the house. Ashlee has always done caricatures of various people and got started at ISU when she designed paper dolls depicting a cheerleader in her middle school, high school and college uniforms. Ashlee then progressed into doing portraits of her and Arik on their wedding invitations.

Retreating into the space to work on her art is like therapy for her.

“I get away from everything,” she said.

Ashlee thinks her artistic eye led her to want to have a whimsical home.

“From the outside to the inside to the roof deck, it’s very different and unique,” Ashlee said.

Creating welcoming rooms was important to the couple, who enjoy having friends over, especially in their living room.

“We do entertain quite a bit,” Ashlee said.

The couple often finds and refurbishes furnishings from salvage.

“We’re always looking for new pieces,” Ashlee said.

Ashlee’s dad brings her some finds from job sites.

“My dad and I have similar taste,” Ashlee said.

“She’s a big proponent of swapping things out,” Arik said. “There’s always sales to go to.”

Arik said he’s not artistic but he knows what Ashlee would like when he sees it.

“People are always bringing us stuff,” Ashlee said. “I think I just have a knack for it. It’s fun.”

They also like finding treasures at street markets on visits to places like New York City and New Orleans.

The Bruens’ walls are covered with an assortment of artwork, all hung with Velcro because Ashlee is an advocate of not putting holes in the plaster walls.

“Piece by piece, we kind of put it together,” Arik said.

The Bruens like to use a variety of colors and textures in their design.

“I don’t want anything to be matchy-matchy,” Ashlee said. “I think we’re kind of old souls too.”

The Bruens’ old-fashioned taste even extends to the 1940s and 1950s music that they listen to on their living room record player.

The living room features some personal touches like a couple of pieces of artwork done by one of Arik’s college friends. There’s a 1961 calendar page from Ashlee’s family’s three-generation business, Brown’s Woodworks.

“We love picking out light fixtures,” Ashlee said. “We like the old Thomas Edison bulbs, the vintagey look.”

The Bruens think they might like to get into flipping homes someday.

“We love projects,” Ashlee said.

The Bruens share their home with their two dogs, Norman and Murphy.